Many customers now actively seek out businesses that are proactive in terms of protecting the environment and companies are finding that being 'green' is an effective selling point. A few recycling bins dotted around the place will no longer cut it in terms of being environmentally responsible. There may be many ways in which your place of business could be greener at a minimum cost; some will even result in a cost saving!
Aiming for a completely paperless office is unrealistic and therefore unlikely to be successful; for legal and tax reasons alone you may need to keep hard copies of certain documents. However, you can still substantially reduce the amount of paper used. Wikis and Google Docs enable online collaboration, sharing and editing without anything needing to be printed. Encourage email as the preferred method of communication and ensure that the paper your office does use is recycled and, yes, use those pretty blue recycling bins for paper communications that you do not legally need to keep.
Turning off all electronics at the end of the business day will reward you directly with savings in your power bill. Also, recycle old, defunct electronics appropriately or donate them if they are still in working order; educational establishments and small business startups may be delighted to inherit your outdated computers.
To further encourage savings on the office power bill, while also helping the environment, promote casual Fridays or even casual wear in general. Traditional business clothing is not comfortable in extreme weather conditions. How often do we shiver as we enter icy office buildings in hot weather to be greeted by men dressed in jackets and ties and women in hose and sweaters? Promote casual wear, at least in summer, and you will be able to adjust the thermostat accordingly as everyone dresses for the weather, not the air conditioning. Install programmable thermostats and consider turning the temperature down a degree or two in winter and up in summer.
Consider buying hybrids when it comes time to upgrade your company vehicles. You may spend more at the outset but the gas savings will repay you in a short time and your business's carbon footprint will be greatly reduced.
Go literally green by bringing plants into the workspace. Having plants around the office has multiple benefits: plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, contributing to a healthier workplace. They also make the office feel more relaxing; workers will be happier and more productive, while clients will appreciate the ambience.
Don't forget the kitchen or lunchroom and janitor's closet. Replacing paper and plastic plates and utensils with reusable china and silverware not only reduces waste but is also a far healthier option. Styrofoam cups, in particular, may constitute a health hazard – especially when used in a microwave. Additionally, the manufacture of Styrofoam is one of the worst offenders in terms of depleting the ozone layer.
While in the kitchen, consider upgrading to organic, free trade, shade-grown coffee. Yes, this one will cost you a little more but employees and visiting clients alike will appreciate the superior brew and you will have a clear conscience knowing that no workers were exploited and that your coffee was produced in a way that protects biodiversity. Similarly, 'green' cleaning products may also cost a little more, but not only are they good for the environment, they are non-toxic and allergen free; your staff members will thank you and you may be repaid with fewer employee sick days!
Last, but by no means least, stay home! Modern technology enables many workers to telecommute, at least some of the time. Your employees will be happier, less stressed and more productive, while the reduction to your carbon footprint will be huge!